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Pitcairn PCA-2

Role Utility autogyro
National origin United States
Manufacturer Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company
Designer Harold F. Pitcairn
First flight 1931
Number built 20–30

The Pitcairn PCA-2 was an autogyro developed in the United States in the early 1930s,[1] Harold F. Pitcairn's first autogyro design to sell in quantity. It had a conventional design for its day – an airplane-like fuselage with two open cockpits in tandem, and an engine mounted tractor-fashion in the nose.[2] The lift by the four-blade main rotor was augmented by stubby, low-set monoplane wings that also carried the control surfaces.[2] The wingtips featured considerable dihedral to act as winglets for added stability.[2]

The PCA-2 was the first rotary-wing aircraft to achieve type certification in the United States[3] and was used in a number of high-profile activities including a landing on the White House lawn[4][5] and the first flight across the United States in a rotorcraft. This latter feat was attempted by Amelia Earhart, flying for the Beech-Nut food company, but was actually accomplished by John M. Miller who completed his flight nine days before Earhart on 28 May 1931, in his PCA-2 named Missing Link.[6] Learning of Miller's achievement upon her arrival in California, Earhart set out to turn her flight into a round-trip record by flying east again, but abandoned the attempt after three crashes.[6] Earhart set an altitude record in a PCA-2 on 8 April 1931 with a height of 18,415 ft (5,615 m).[2][3][4] This record was broken in another PCA-2 by Lewis Yancey who flew to 21,500 ft (6,600 m) on 25 September 1932.[3][7]

PCA-2 operated by the Detroit News, displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

In 1931, The Detroit News made history when it bought a PCA-2 for use as a news aircraft due to its ability to fly well at low altitude, land and take off from restricted spaces, and semi-hover for better camera shots. In May 1933, Scripps donated the autogyro to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.[8]

The Champion spark plug company operated a PCA-2 as a promotional machine in 1931 and 32 as Miss Champion.[4] It was flown over 6,500 miles in the 1931 Ford National Reliability Air Tour. This machine was restored to flying condition in 1982 by Steve Pitcairn, Harold's son.[4] In 2005, he donated it to the EAA AirVenture Museum.[4] Other PCA-2s are preserved at The Henry Ford[4][9] and the Canada Aviation Museum.[10]


  • PCA-2 - major production version[2][3]
  • PCA-3 - version with Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine and 48-ft (14.63-m) rotor[2] (1 built)[3]
  • PA-21 - version with Wright R-975-E2 engine[2][3]
  • OP-1 - Reconnaissance autogyro (1931)
  • OP-2 - Reconnaissance autogyro without wings.

Specifications (PCA-2)

Data from "Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro Specifications"

General characteristics
  • Crew: One pilot
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 23 ft 1 in (7.04 m)
  • Wingspan: 30 ft 0 in (9.14 m)
  • Main rotor diameter: 45 ft 0 in (13.72 m)
  • Main rotor area: 1,590 ft2 (147 m2)
  • Empty weight: 2,233 lb (1,015 kg)
  • Gross weight: 3,000 lb (1,363 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-975-J6-9, 330 hp (250 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 120 mph (190 km/h)
  • Range: 290 miles (466,7 km)
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,575 m)
  • Maximum glide ratio: 4.8[11]


  1. ^ Taylor 1989, p.735
  2. ^ a b c d e f g The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, p.2739
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Pitcairn, A G A, Pitcairn-Cierva, Pitcairn-Larsen"
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro 'Miss Champion' – NC11609"
  5. ^ Charnov 2003b, p.3
  6. ^ a b Charnov 2003a
  7. ^ Charnov 2003b, p.6
  8. ^ Ford Richardson Bryan, Sarah Evans. Henry's attic: some fascinating gifts to Henry Ford and his museum. 
  9. ^ "The Planes: 1931 Pitcairn Autogiro"
  10. ^ "Pitcairn-Cierva PCA-2"
  11. ^ Duda, Holger; Insa Pruter (2012). "FLIGHT PERFORMANCE OF LIGHTWEIGHT GYROPLANES".  
  • Charnov, Bruce H. (2003a). "Amelia Earhart, John M. Miller and the First Transcontinental Autogiro Flight in 1931". The Aviation History On-Line Museum. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • Charnov, Bruce H. (2003b). From Autogiro to Gyroplane: The Amazing Survival of an Aviation Technology. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. 
  • "Pitcairn-Cierva PCA-2". Canada Aviation Museum website. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • "Pitcairn, A G A, Pitcairn-Cierva, Pitcairn-Larsen". Aerofiles. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  • "Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro 'Miss Champion' – NC11609". AirVenture Museum website. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • "Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro Specifications". AirVenture Museum website. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. London: Aerospace Publishing. 
  • "The Planes: 1931 Pitcairn Autogiro". The Henry Ford website. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. 

External links

  • "Will Autogiro Banish Present Plane?", March 1931, pg 28
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